Many people are taught to mindlessly distract themselves to self-soothe. These temporary solutions like emotional eating can become the source of distress. For this reason, I just finished the audiobook for 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Susan Albers (who also wrote EatQ, the first book I summarized in my 100% in 1% series). Although I’m familiar with many of the techniques described in this book, I found it very helpful to have them listed together with practical advice.
Albers states we learned self-soothing from our primary caregivers and others early on. Interestingly then, if you did not get hugs when you were younger, a hug now may not help. You also may not have been taught how to talk yourself down. Or perhaps you taught yourself through trial and error. According to attachment theory, you can strengthen these skills at any point in your life.
Practice healthier coping mechanisms so you’re good at them by the time you need them.
At first, you don’t have to change your behaviour, just mindfully observe your eating patterns for at least a week. Go at your own pace. Pay attention to your feelings, observing urges. Take baby steps. Shape your behaviour by rewarding gradual steps. You don’t have to do anything perfectly, just do something close to the desired behaviour. When you’re ready, fully engage in the behaviour to get familiar and habituated.
Take an inventory of your most successful soothing techniques to leverage your strengths. Every morning, check in with yourself and make a self-soothing forecast to prepare accordingly. Check before eating if you have emotional or physical hunger.
If you don’t know what to do in an emotional emergency, choose one technique from each of the five areas below to cover all needs. Try techniques more than once because they may be more helpful in different circumstances.
1. Create mindful moments. Stop and mindfully smell the roses, noticing sensations. Try a mindful walk.
2. Practice meditating. There are many meditation styles to help clear your mind. The relaxation response reverses the fight-or-flight response.
3. Breathe. Mindful breathing draws your attention away from stressful thoughts. Talk to yourself about how to breathe well.
4. Strengthen your endurance to counter stress eating. Slow down and make conscious choices. Create a 5-10 minute gap between feeling an urge to eat and responding to it.